FANTASIA ’20— ‘Climate of the Hunter’ Harks Back to the Moody and Atmospheric Vampire Films of the 70s

A still from 'Climate of the Hunter'. Wesley (Ben Hall), a vampire, is shown in close up here biting a woman's neck. The image is dark and sensual, his hand gripping the woman's head to turn her neck to him. He is a gentleman in his 40s/50s with slightly greying hair and deep brow wrinkles.
Fantasia Festival

Climate of the Hunter, directed by Mickey Reece, provides a dream-like exercise in slow burn. Never fully showing it’s full hand of cards, Climate of the Hunter provides a fascinating and theatrical look into the unknown. Borrowing as much from the Hammer Dracula films of the 70s as it does the modern films of Yorgos Lanthimos, all the while retaining an identity of its own.

The film follows the antics of sisters Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) as they compete for the affection of widower Wesley (Ben Hall), who may or may not be a blood sucking vampire. As they stay at a secluded cabin in the woods they come across a cast of colourful characters such as BJ (Jacob Ryan Snovel); a survivalist who lives near the cabin, Percy (Sheridan McMichael); Wesley’s estranged son who writes erotic short stories, and Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger); Alma’s daughter. 

Climate of the Hunter likes to toy with the expectations of its audience. Going in one may expect a traditional tale of vampire seduction, but once inside it reveals itself to be a mind-melting tale of perception and deception. The script — written by the director and John Selvidge, will keep audiences guessing throughout and features equally horrifying and flat-out hilarious moments, while cleverly using some deep cut references to some of the most famous vampire films (major props to the clever use of the music from Swan Lake, a nice callback to the 1931 adaptation of Dracula). The story isn’t afraid to pose questions and not provide the answers to them, leaving the audience to draw upon their own conclusions much like the characters in the film.

A still from 'Climate of the Hunter'. A man and a woman on top of a bed inside a log cabin style room. They are dressed in quite a bohemian style, he is layered up in a denim jacket and orange undercoat with wooly hat and gloves, he is cleaning his gun. The lady has fire red hair shoulder length in waves, wearing a huge cream coloured sheep fur jacket, she is smoking.
Fantasia Festival

The cinematography and direction are absolutely superb and feel like relics of cinema past in the best way possible. The film oozes style, almost playing like a stage production at points rather than a modern film. The set and wardrobe design stay true to the 70s, adding the final elements to fully submerge you into its setting and story.  

The acting is superb on all fronts, especially a standout performance from Ginger Gilmartin who portrays Alma with such conviction and gravitas that you genuinely wonder if she’s the only sane one in the room—or if she’s insane herself. Ben Hall gives a performance lifted straight from the essence of Christoper Lee’s Dracula, completely charismatic but possibly hiding something more sinister beneath the surface; it harks back to when vampire movies had a touch more class. Climate of the Hunter will hit the spot for classic and moody vampire fans.

Climate of the Hunter is playing on demand at the virtual edition of Fantasia Festival 2020

by Reyna Cervantes

Reyna (She/They) is located in southern California! They are an aspiring screenwriter with experience in sound design and production work, their 3 favourite films are Evil Dead 2, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Frances Ha. All of their social handles are @JFCDoomblade (twitter, insta, letterboxd).

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